Where do you start with Donald Sutherland?

A tight portrait of a bearded Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland showed both incredible range and dogged dedication to his craft.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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Where do you start with Donald Sutherland?

For me, as a young moviegoer, it was his trench-coated health inspector in Philip Kaufman’s thrilling 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The ending of that movie kept me awake at night for the better part of a week, giving me plenty of time to think about pod people, sure, but also this actor who had so mesmerized me. Wait ... he played Hawkeye in “M*A*S*H”? There was a “M*A*S*H” movie? Who’s this Robert Altman guy?

Many years later, I took my daughter to see “The Hunger Games.” Before the film started, I told her to pay particular attention to the actor playing President Snow. He’s one of the greats. And indeed he was.

I’m Glenn Whipp, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter. What was your introduction to Donald Sutherland? And which of his movies will you be rewatching this weekend?

Ewan McGregor wouldn’t shave off any years. That mustache? Another story.

Ewan McGregor is swiping through his camera roll, looking for the picture that explains why he will never grow another mustache — unless a job requires it. And even then, he’d probably argue that the character should be clean-shaven. Dalí without a mustache? Surreal.


Before our conversation, I had resolved not to ask McGregor anything about facial hair. It seems that most of the interviews he’s done to promote his terrific Paramount+ With Showtime limited series “A Gentleman in Moscow” have spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on the mustache he grew to play Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a Russian nobleman sentenced to house arrest in a luxurious hotel following the 1917 revolution. Over four decades (and eight episodes), the good gentleman learns to let go of formalities and appreciate simple pleasures and embrace family.

But he never shaves off that damn mustache.

I spoke with McGregor not too long ago from the set of “Flowervale Street,” a movie so secret that when he mentions its name, he immediately panics. “Oh, no. I’m worried that I just blew the title.” When I tell him it’s out there, he’s relieved. He wrapped shooting at 6:30 that morning, and here he was with me on Zoom, 4½ hours later. “I’m somewhat upside down, but it’s all good,” he says.

It was all good. He’s a delightful hang, and we covered the waterfront — but not “Flowervale Street.”

When I tell him that all I know about “Flowervale Street” is that David Robert Mitchell (“It Follows,” “Under the Silver Lake”) wrote and directed it, and that it’s a mystery, and it might be set in the 1980s and that it might have dinosaurs, he says, smiling:

“Well, I’m not at liberty to discuss that in any way, so it could be in the ’70s with, you know, rodents. But it’s great fun.”

As was the interview.

Ewan McGregor sits on a window seat with one knee raised.
Ewan McGregor, star of “A Gentleman in Moscow.”
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Emmys 2024: Early predictions (and voting advice)

Emmy voting is underway, and if you’re one of the 24,000 Television Academy members wondering if there’s still time to binge-watch all three seasons of “Reservation Dogs” to finally get up to speed, the answer is: Yes. But get busy. Ballots are due June 24.

Is there ever enough time to watch everything and be a fully informed Emmy voter? Probably not. There are a handful of shows I never got around to viewing, despite my best intentions. And no, I’m not revealing them because I don’t need your judgment. I didn’t chastise (beyond a little silent rebuke to myself) latecomers to “Reservation Dogs,” as I don’t think you can blame anyone for not sampling each and every one of the more than 300 series submitted. Unless you didn’t watch “Shōgun.” Then we need to talk.

Another problem vexing voters this year is that there are too many worthy contenders in the limited series categories and not enough decent dramas to reward, making balloting equally challenging but for different reasons. Comedies? Just right. As long as “Reservation Dogs” is finally rewarded. But again, no judgment. (Yet.)

I offered a quick rundown of the 15 main categories in a recent column. Whom did I miss? Maybe Paul Rudd for “Only Murders in the Building”? That intense conversation he had with a cookie still lingers in my mind.

Two men arguing outside a broken elevator
Wesley Taylor and Paul Rudd in “Only Murders in the Building.”
( Patrick Harbron / Hulu)

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Revisiting ‘Ordinary People’

I asked earlier which Donald Sutherland movie you might be revisiting this weekend. For me, it’s “Ordinary People,” a wrenching portrait of a family torn apart by tragedy. Sutherland’s sensitive portrayal of a father caring for his distraught son (Timothy Hutton) while beginning to question his love for his wife (Mary Tyler Moore, an inspired casting choice) is tremendously moving. When I first saw the movie in 1980, I was younger than Hutton. And now I’m older than Sutherland when he made it. I suspect it’ll hit me a bit differently.

Thanks, as always, for sharing some of your time with me. I hope you have a great weekend.

Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People," directed by Robert Redford.
(Paramount Pictures)


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